On the 10th frame of the semifinal round of this year’s Intercollegiate Singles Championships, Midland University senior Perry Crowell IV stared at 10 pins, a chance to knock off the tournament’s top seeded bowler, and an opportunity to grab a spot in the National Championship match. For Crowell, the shot was routine; he reached back, glided into his approach, and tossed the rock for a strike and a place in the Men’s XBowling Intercollegiate Singles Championship.
“It was unbelievable,” said Crowell. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed about.”
Yet, the defining moment almost did not happen at all for the student-athlete from Hoquiam, Washington. In fact, the first-team All-American and NAIA Player of the Year very nearly opted out of collegiate bowling altogether.
As Perry explained, in his hometown collegiate bowling scholarships are a rarity.
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t look at collegiate bowling,” Crowell noted. “College bowling in the Northwest is non-existent for the most part. Very few schools offer bowling, and at the ones that do, you have to pay out of pocket.”
The lack of scholarship options was certainly not due to Crowell’s bowling talent. A three-time All-American, he grew up in a family-owned bowling alley. First bowling at the age of three, he ultimately would go on to set six institutional records at Midland University, including highest career pinfall, highest career average, most total games played, most individual tournament victories, most individual all-tournament team selections, and highest season average. This season he was also named a First Team NAIA and NCBCA All-American, International Bowling Media Association Bowler of the Year Runner-up, and the NAIA Men’s Player of the Year.
However, after high school, he was faced with a difficult decision. Admittedly reserved by nature, he was hesitant to venture too far from the security of his small hometown. He decided to go to a local community college for his freshman and sophomore years, where he did not have the chance to bowl collegiately.
Meanwhile, Midland University was in the early stages of adding bowling as a varsity sport. In a push to develop the character of students and maximize opportunities for participation and engagement, the university added men’s and women’s bowling in 2010 – two of 11 varsity sports that would be added in a span of four years. With the addition of sports like bowling, the university eventually grew to offer a total of 27 varsity sports: the most in the state. Shortly after bowling was announced, Crowell contacted head coach JJ Mastny.
“I knew a coach who was connected with (Coach Mastny). He said, ‘I know a guy who is starting up a program in Nebraska,’ “ Crowell recalls. “I contacted JJ, and it all kicked off from there.”
Crowell was offered a bowling scholarship, but even with the chance to bowl for a scholarship, he was hesitant to leave the security of his small town. The chance to pursue his dream came at the cost of traveling more than 1,000 miles to a new college in a foreign state with new friends and unfamiliar faculty.
“My family all lives in the same general area,” said Crowell. “At first, I thought ‘this is crazy,’ but I decided to take a chance.”
For Crowell, the gamble paid off. The opportunity to grow in a community with lasting relationships was important for the reserved, small-town kid. According to him, Midland came to feel like a second home.
“It’s like we are a family here. The people were nice and welcoming, so there wasn’t much shellshock,” said Crowell. “The one-on-one faculty to student communication made it really easy to adjust.”
Although he was able to settle into a comfortably small feel at Midland, his experience outside the classroom was far from familiar. Just last season, Midland’s bowling team traveled to eight different states with multiple competitions in Las Vegas, Nevada. To top it all, Crowell capped his career under the lights of the nationally televised Singles Championship, eventually being named the National Singles Runner-up.
“If I hadn’t come out here, I wouldn’t have seen all of the places I have,” Crowell notes. “The experience has been unreal for sure.”
Crowell is prepared to begin his life’s next frame. He graduated last spring with a concentration in Sports Management, a solid group of friends, connections throughout the bowling industry, and lasting experiences. In the future, he hopes to remain in the bowling scene and possibly pursue a coaching career.